Lebanon News

LU students stage sit-ins as Hariri chastises professors

Students protest in Nabatieh, June 12, 2019. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

BEIRUT/NABATIEH: Lebanese University students Wednesday staged sit-ins across the country against the ongoing LU professors’ strike that has carried on for over a month, as Prime Minister Saad Hariri criticized the lecturers’ moves as unacceptable.

LU students in south Lebanon gathered outside the entrance of the faculty of sciences in Nabatieh under a slogan telling the state, “We just want to learn!”

Lecturers at the Lebanese University, the country’s only public university, have been on strike since May 6 to protest the 2019 draft state budget’s allocation to the university.

But after a meeting with President Michel Aoun in Baabda, Hariri said that the budget “does not touch the professors.” The premier blasted the move by the professors, which he said was negatively affecting “100,000 students,” and pointed the blame at the university itself.

Some 80,000 students attend LU.

Khadija Ezzedine, an LU student who was protesting in Nabatieh, said, “We are not against the demands of Lebanese University professors or their rights, but we don’t want it to come at our expense.”

LU students also took to the streets in Beirut, gathering in Riad al-Solh Square at 4 p.m. for a sit-in.

The head of the League of Lebanese University Full-Time Professors, Youssef Daher, told The Daily Star that the league had met many times with students to explain its demands and reasons for striking.

“Education requires investment in people and learning,” said Daher, who asked the students to “calm down” in their reaction to the strike. Daher said he couldn’t give an estimate for when the strikes might end.

“We have to learn because we are the future of the country,” one banner at Wednesday’s student protest read. “What about our future - we want to learn!” another read.

“Our sit-in today is the first of many steps. If we do not return to our desks soon, we will resort to exercising escalatory steps permitted by Lebanese law,” student Ali Touba said in a statement, speaking on behalf of his peers. “We are 80,000 students! We want to study, and studying is our right,” he continued.

Touba pointed out that there were students who wanted to leave Lebanon to complete their studies abroad, and called on the state to fulfill its responsibility of allowing students to study.

Another student, Reda Karam, spoke of students’ investment in their education, saying, “You have paid the university fees, and you are the ones who have come to your colleges from your various towns. You are the ones who took the first semester exams, and you are the ones who will build the future.” Karam aimed his appeal at “all concerned” including the government, university leadership and professors.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 13, 2019, on page 2.

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